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It can be difficult for businesses to find a freight service provider that actually makes it easier to ship their products. What could be the reason? Some providers offer adequate technology and a few knowledgeable people, but that is not always enough for effective shipping. For best results, seek out a company that combines robust technology, powerful, self-service tools, and people who are transportation experts. That is where you will find the greatest value.
Today, data and technology play a larger role in transportation and logistics as a whole. In particular, shippers are looking to get instant quotes, compare carriers, book shipments, and track their freight with online tools. They are looking for providers with all that capability so they can handle their shipping in an efficient manner.
"Combining the power of technology with people who can harness the tools and manage freight effectively is a winning way to build a stronger supply chain"
What difference can knowledgeable people make in this scenario? There are many. Less than truckload (LTL) service is far more complex than many companies realize. Businesses that rely heavily on LTL services do not always realize that it takes time and inclination to understand LTL, and mistakes can be costly.
For instance, incorrectly classifying products will impact profits. Freight classes are based-on the product’s weight and dimensions, as well as density, ease of handling, value, and other factors. It takes a skilled logistics professional to know how to properly apply rules about LTL freight classifications and prevent errors.
Alternatively, consider the issue of product weight—an important factor in LTL pricing. Extra weight means that LTL equipment may not meet road weight restrictions and regulations. So carriers weigh a shipper’s freight, either at their terminal or using a forklift with a built-in scale, and compare the actual weight to the stated weight on the bill of lading (BOL). If a shipper changes packaging and does not revise the weight on the BOL, the carrier can charge a reweigh fee each time the incorrect weight is used on a shipment.
In addition to assisting with freight classification and weight issues, people who understand LTL service can watch for accessorials—extra fees that LTL carriers may levy for inefficiencies in transportation and administrative processes. People who understand LTL transportation can help companies think through these and other common issues and avoid them.
The combination makes a difference
It is hard to underestimate the combined value of great technology and logistics experience, particularly to a growing business. Technology to manage many types of transportation services is expensive to purchase, and it can take many years before a business can justify hiring people to focus on the supply chain alone. In the meantime, freight service providers can support both of these critical requirements—the tools and the people. Working alongside the company, the provider helps build a supply chain that is designed to flex and evolve as the business grows.
The value of this can be seen from the start. Companies with this combined technology and people advantage can more easily:
• Identify their best shipping options
There are many ways to move a shipment. A company that typically ships via LTL may not know that obtaining a volume LTL quote or moving some freight as a partial truckload could provide savings that may improve the bottom line. A freight service provider can help the company identify targeted characteristics that would indicate the shipment would best be moved by LTL, and when it might be more efficiently transported by small parcel, full truckload, or intermodal. The provider can recommend the best options, factoring in the company’s savings targets, transit requirements, and service needs.
• Track and trace freight
With increasing rates of cargo theft, it is never a good idea to lose sight of freight. While the company can use the technology to track their freight, they can also work with a logistics professional to identify incidents and help reduce this risk.
• Mitigate risk
Freight values are increasing, but the right amount of insurance can help protect a company’s profits from damage or theft. At the same time, carriers typically have a limited liability coverage, which only protects goods to a certain dollar amount per pound, depending on the commodity. Companies do not always realize it, but this coverage often amounts to less than the actual value of the goods shipped—and not even that amount can be collected unless the carrier was at fault. It is a great help in situations like this to have people available to answer questions. Companies should look to their freight service provider for that assistance. Ask them for insurance options that will cover the true value of goods to mitigate the risk of costly accidents that can result in a loss.
• Get the product there faster, when necessary
Customers may not want to wait for their goods. While expedited shipping costs more, it is sometimes worthwhile to boost customer satisfaction. The provider should not only offer expedited options, but should be able to offer better rates than the company could get on its own. In addition, the provider may be able to assist by tracking the product to its destination.
• Improve customer service
Shippers expect their deliveries on time. They also expect quality customer service at all times—whether it is online, over the phone, or in person. The freight service can provide ideas and recommendations for improving transportation management and increasing service performance. They should also have people who understand your business; it goes a long way in offering high quality customer service.
• Obtain valuable supply chain information
Beyond using the technology and assisting with transportation, logistics pros can put the data that is being collected to work on behalf of the shipper. As each shipment moves, the technology captures details about the freight, customer ordering patterns, carrier service levels, and spending. The company should be able to communicate to customers what the data indicates about their supply chain—from cost saving opportunities to the need for more efficient processes.
There are freight service providers with limited technology available to their customers. However, most lack a full range of online, self-service capabilities. Even fewer freight service providers have the winning combination of people and technology that can move businesses toward their goals.
You can achieve even more when you choose a freight service that also provides the people—supply chain experts—who can support your business. Combining the power of technology with people who can harness the tools and manage freight effectively is a winning way to build a stronger supply chain, no matter how small or large your business is.